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RTÉ cutbacks are a loss to the Irish in Britain

 

The trade union at RTÉ is looking at ways to maintain news coverage from London while ensuring there are savings, according to a workers’ representative.

 

The move follows the shock announcement the state broadcaster intends closing its London office after the Olympics.

 

The closure is part of a €25million cost-cutting programme.

 

Mary Curtain, secretary of the trade union representing workers, said reaction to the move was one of “complete shock” and there was “huge questions about the wisdom of the closure”.

 

She added:  “The problem is not of RTÉ’s making. It is a national problem. Licencing income and advertising revenue have both been affected by the downturn.”

 

Ms Curtain said staff had been already told by management the decision had been made, but the Union felt everything is up for discussion.

 

A media source said there was a feeling within RTÉ that cuts in London would allow the broadcaster to focus more on Europe and the current financial crisis demanded a shift in focus.

 

They suggested Britain was no longer deemed to hold previous levels of importance following the bedding in of the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process.

 

But an RTÉ insider said the move was akin to pulling journalists out of Munster and trying to cover the province from a Dublin base.

 

They said the social and cultural ties which connect both countries required the state broadcaster to retain journalists on the ground.

 

“The number of Irish people in Britain makes it a non-governed province that needs to be covered properly,” they said.

 

If the closure of the London office does go ahead it is believed RTÉ will use staff from bases in Dublin, Belfast and Brussels.

 

The board in RTÉ have been told by the Irish Government they must break even financially by 2013, and the move against London could be a signal of intent.

 

A spokesman for the Minister of Communications Pat Rabbitte said: “The only issue here is that RTÉ gets its house in order financially and he is glad to see that serious steps in that direction have been taken”.

 

Morale among staff at RTÉ has been described as low after four years of pay cuts and negotiations, which were wilfully received in 2008.

 

Jennie McShannon, the chief executive of the Federation of Irish Societies in Britain said: “This is a loss to the Irish community here. There is a need to understand British issues, and journalists need to become embedded and engaged in the community to give a proper picture”.

 

RTÉ is seeking €15million in savings from reductions in staff.

 

The next redundancy package is likely to be targeted at those on defined pension schemes.

 

The state broadcaster said all of its 20 top paid presenters will take pay cuts of at least 30 per cent.

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